The Noochy Noodle

a world beyond the blue box

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Cheezy Mac From Vegan Diner

Last night was a typical Tuesday dinner. I was exhausted and sluggish from work and had most of what was necessary on hand for a weeknight-style meal of Gardein Beefless Burgers, mac & cheese along with a heaping side of steamed broccoli. I had been planning on choosing the usual recipe in my mac n’ cheese in my repertoire; something from Vegan Table or Appetite for Reduction, but as I turned the pasta water onto boil inspiration struck! I pulled Julie Hasson’s Vegan Diner off the bookshelf and flipped to the Cheezy Mac recipe. I had tried a few recipes from the book and enjoyed them, so I figured it couldn’t go too terribly wrong.

The recipe is straightforward enough. Noodles + cashews + nooch + flour+ cornstarch + spices = mac n’ cheese! I expected the recipe to be good, but about on par with every other vegan mac n’ cheese recipe out there these days.

Well, I was wrong because this recipe is straight amazing. A new all time favorite! My mac n’ cheese hating boyfriend even went back for seconds! It actually reminded me quite a bit of a combination of The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook recipe and the Vegan Table recipe, and since those are two of my favorites magic was bound to happen. The smoked paprika adds a vital and delicious flavoring component without being overwhelming, and that extra tablespoon of nooch added towards the end rounds out this perfectly cheesy dish.

One thing that must be commented on is the incredible creaminess! I’ve never tried a mac n’ cheese that was so smooth and thick before. It’s one of those things I didn’t realize was missing from my life until I discovered it.  If other recipes just don’t quite cut it for you in the texture department, then you absolutely must try this one! Apparently combining  flour and cornstarch is the way to go if you want an over the top decadent dish.

As an aside, the buns I used for my burger are from Ozery, a company that makes all sorts of bread-y type products that have been popping up at my local Whole Foods. The buns are thin pita-style sandwich rounds that don’t fall apart when handled. Personally, I like enjoying my burger and all the veggies I load on, not a mouthful of bread, so I think these are fantastic. Careful though, because only one of the 3 types of buns offered are vegan.

Mac n’ Quiche With Caramelized Onions, Spinach and Smoky Curls

This recipe has lived in my imagination for awhile now and I finally got to execute it for Vegan Happy Hour this month! It was originally inspired by this article on the Huffington Post. I saw the mac n’ cheese pie and thought, I can do it better, and I can do it vegan! So after bouncing around ideas with a few like-minded mac n’ cheese lovers I set off to make the ultimate vegan quiche with a macaroni and cheese filling.

The results!

So what went into this recipe? I started with the cashew cheese from my Jalapeno Popper Dip because I wanted a thick sauce that wouldn’t run and make the crust soggy. I went with Julie Hasson’s Smoky Curls from Vegan Diner for the meaty component because I’m completely obsessed with them right now. If you don’t have access to her amazing book or soy curls you can use either store bought or homemade tempeh bacon. Of course, any good quiche needs spinach and caramelized onions. It’s a rule I read somewhere. After everything was mixed together it was all nestled into a flaky pastry shell and topped with sliced tomato.

But what the hell, I’ll just tell you exactly how to make it.

Mac n’ Quiche! A Recipe. 

 For the Crust (or use your favorite quiche crust recipe)

  • 1 ¾ C pastry flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 C palm shortening*
  • 3 – 4 tbs cold water

For the mac n’ cheese filling

  • ½ lb macaroni noodles
  • 1  C raw cashew pieces
  • 1/2 lb firm tofu, crumbled up a bit with your fingers
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 C lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric

The rest of the filling

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • Medium yellow onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 5 oz spinach
  • 1/4 package of Tofurky Smoky Maple Tempeh Bacon or Homemade Tempeh Bacon, cut into medium sized pieces OR 1 recipe of Julie Hasson’s Smoky Curls from Vegan Diner
  • Tomato, thinly sliced

*I buy a giant bucket of Tropical Traditions palm shortening  like once every 5 years. It’s sustainable and fair trade. Good stuff!

What to Do

Preheat oven to 350°

Make the crust – In a medium sized bowl sift together the pastry flour and salt. Add the palm oil and use a pastry cutter to work the oil into the flour until dough looks like medium sized crumbs. Add cold water a tablespoon at a time or until dough begins to hold together.  Roll dough into a ball and place in the refrigerator for at least 40 minutes.

Roll the pastry crust into a thin round sheet about ¼” thick. Mold the crust to the bottom and all the way up the sides of a 9” springform pan. Trim off any excess pastry from the top and place a pie shield on the top of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Cook macaroni – Cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

If you are making Julie Hasson’s Smoky Curls now would be a good time to start marinating them.

Make the cashew cheese – Place cashews in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add tofu and garlic, process for 30 seconds, and scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. With the food processor running add the olive oil and lemon juice, let the processor run for about 30 more seconds, scrape down the sides again, add salt, onion powder and turmeric. Process for another minute, or until cheese is smooth and creamy.  Set aside.

Make the rest of the filling (if making Smoky Curls this is a good place to start cooking them!) –  Preheat oil on medium-high in a medium sized nonstick pan, add onions and a pinch of salt. Sautee for about 15 minutes, or until onions begin to brown and caramelize.  Add a tiny bit of water to deglaze the pan and then add spinach by the handful. Sautee until spinach is completely wilted and water is dissolved. Add Tofurky tempeh bacon (if using) and cook for about 2 more minutes.

Put it all together  – In a large mixing bowl combine macaroni, cashew cheese, onion/spinach mixture, and Smoky Curls if using. Mix well.

Add mac n’ cheese mixture to the pan and flatten using a rubber spatula. Place sliced tomatoes in a pretty pattern on top. Put in oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until crust has browned a bit and mac n’ cheese has heated through.  Enjoy!

Mac & Trees – Appetite for Reduction

You might not guess it from reading this blog, but I actually try and eat pretty healthy most of the time. I’m all about whole foods, high fiber, low fat, all that fun stuff, so I tend to make dinner from Appetite for Reduction, the latest book from Isa Chandra Moskowitz, multiple times a week. It’s without a doubt the cookbook in my extensive collection that gets the most use, so it’s not hard to imagine that I make the AFR  Mac and Trees more than any other mac & cheese recipe. Usually on the nights when I’m just so exhausted from school or work that I can’t even fathom cooking I’ll pop into the market near my house, buy a head of broccoli and some whole wheat macaroni so that I can have a delicious and comforting dinner ready in under 30 minutes.

Mac and Trees is also really versatile. Since I make it so often I like to get a little crazy and experiment, so sometimes instead of broccoli I’ll use peas and carrots, or I’ll dump a bottle of hot sauce or some sliced up veggie dogs on top. Anything goes!

This recipe really takes me back to my first few months of being vegan. As much as I love cashew based cheese sauce recipes, the nooch-y sauces I made so often as a baby vegan will always have a special place in my heart and I love revisiting them from time to time. Unfortunately, a lot of  the recipes are also really high in fat. But not this recipe! It’s all the cozy flavors of the 1970’s cheese sauce without half a cup of oil or margarine.

Have you tried Mac and Trees? What do you think?

The VegNews Scandal & Their Mac and Cheese Recipe!

In honor of the latest scandal to hit the vegan tabloids, I made the VegNews Macaroni and Cheese recipe for dinner last night! For those of you not in the know yet you can check out this post on Quarry Girl and be sure to read the VegNews non-apology apology here!

My take: eh, I had known about the stock photography thing for awhile, coupled with some other issues I have with the company, and just not being all that interested in the content meant that I hadn’t bought the magazine in a really long time. I do occasionally check it out in the bookstore so that I can read Laura Beck’s (of Vegansaurus!) column, because that woman is straight hilarious and never fails to get me laughing out loud.

Now, let’s not allow all of this  silly controversy ruin one of the best macaroni and cheese recipes available on the planet! You make it buy boiling some carrots, potatoes, and onions, and then blending it up with some cashews and other tasty ingredients. Then something magical happens that turns these ordinary and unlikely components into a thick, creamy sauce that is slightly tangy, and suprisingly “cheesy” in flavor. Bonus points, because it’s nutritional yeast free! Okay, I might slip a tablespoon or two of nooch in, but it really doesn’t need it! I make this recipe quite often, and it is truly one of my favorites.

Have a look:

Okay, I kid, I kid. Here’s the real photo:

Even if you have sworn off buying an issue of VegNews ever again you just have to make this recipe.

Has anyone else made it? What do you think?

Recipe Review: Mac n’ Shews

I’m not a big fan of most vegan cheese on the market. While a lot of companies seem to consider texture and stretchiness as the top priority, I find most still lack delicious and interesting flavor; they all seem to taste like the cheapest, low-grade dairy cheeses available.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a few pre-made vegan cheeses, my absolute favorite being Dr. Cow Aged Cashew. While it’s not ideal for making say…mac n’ cheeze, the flavor and creamy texture make it perfect for eating on a baguette or with crackers. I also enjoyed Cheezly quite a bit when it was still available in the U.S. It was always my go-to cheese for pizza night when I was feeling too lazy to make my own cashew cheese. Both of these products just have something the others lack – a tasty and complex flavor.

That’s why I was immediately intrigued when I saw the recipe for Mac n’ Shews on the Post Punk Kitchen blog. Not only was it a cashew based recipe, but it had a completely unique ingredient I had never seen used in any other mac n’ cheeze recipe – sauerkraut.



I knew right away this is what I had been looking for over the past few years. As the recipe’s author Isa Chandra Moskowitz puts it:

“I wanted something different, tangier, more interesting. Cheese is aged, giving it flavor and nuance. There’s always mustard (an ingredient even in the New Farm recipe), miso, lemon…but I hit upon an ingredient that really gave me the depth I was looking for…sauerkraut!”

It was certainly love at first bite. Not only was the flavor amazing, but it was also perfectly thick and creamy,  and it even had a bit of a texture that was reminiscent of my favorite pre-vegan Stouffer’s Macaroni & Cheese.

The only thing I want to do differently in the future is experiment with different types of sauerkraut and vegetable broth. I had wound up buying some kind of cheap brand of ‘kraut, and used veggie buillion cubes, and I found that sometimes the flavor just wasn’t pronounced enough. While I do prefer my mac n’ cheeze mild, I think buying higher quality ingredients could be a big improvement.

I would also highly recommend this recipe to nutritional yeast haters and avoiders. The recipe only calls for 2 tablespoons, and it’s optional! While I did add nutritional yeast to my mac n’ shews, I am interested in hearing how it is without.